By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis

Overview

For two centuries the question has persisted: Was Meriwether Lewis’s death a suicide, an accident, or a homicide? By His Own Hand? is the first book to carefully analyze the evidence and consider the murder-versus-suicide debate within its full historical context. The historian contributors to this volume follow the format of a postmortem court trial, dissecting the case from different perspectives. A documents section permits readers to examine the key written evidence for themselves and reach their own ...

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By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis

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Overview

For two centuries the question has persisted: Was Meriwether Lewis’s death a suicide, an accident, or a homicide? By His Own Hand? is the first book to carefully analyze the evidence and consider the murder-versus-suicide debate within its full historical context. The historian contributors to this volume follow the format of a postmortem court trial, dissecting the case from different perspectives. A documents section permits readers to examine the key written evidence for themselves and reach their own conclusions.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Raymond Puffer
Meriwether Lewis's sad and rather pathetic death has always been an uncomfortable footnote to the grand epic of Lewis and Clark. Following the successful conclusion of their cross-continental trek and return, the young nation acclaimed the two men, feted and rewarded them with land and honors. George Rogers Clark adjusted and prospered in his unexpected status as national hero; Meriwether Lewis did not. His appointment as governor of Upper Louisiana ensnared him in typical administrative and financial problems, and he soon became strangely lethargic in dealing with them. From our own comfortable distance, it is easy to speculate that the young man was likely in over his head, and possibly in a state of clinical depression. At any rate, sometime during the night of 10 October 1809, the sound of shots awoke the household of a grubby wayside inn on the Nachez Trace, and the 35-year-old explorer was found dead of two gunshot wounds. A pair of pistols lay at his side. No one who ever knew Meriwether Lewis doubted that it was a tragically inevitable case of suicide. However, Lewis's status and the peculiar circumstances of the death scene fed an undercurrent of suspicion about foul play that has persisted down through the years. John Guice, a professor emeritus of history, has taken up the old case and given it a new and professional polish. Unlike the writers of popular history who are content simply to tell a story from their own viewpoint, Professor Guice leaves the issue up to readers—and provides them with the tools to do their own analysis. The first section of the book plainly lays out the circumstances and known facts of Lewis's death. Guice then turns to colleagues to make acase for suicide or murder. One of them presents a strong case for suicide, which Guice, in the following chapter, dissects and analyzes. Another historian then presents the case for murder. After the historians have finished wrangling, the book concludes with a series of original documents in the case, which the reader is invited to peruse and form his or her own conclusions. This is academic work at its finest: not at all pedantic, sharply focused on teaching the reader how to analyze historical data, and never, ever, tedious or dull. It will be a brilliant tool in the hands of secondary teachers and undergraduate instructors.
Library Journal
This book examines in detail whether Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), co-leader of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition, was murdered or shot himself while traveling the Natchez Trace in 1809. Essays by historians Guice (emeritus, Univ. of Southern Mississippi; Frontiers in Conflict: The Old Southwest) and James J. Holmberg (editor, Exploring with Lewis and Clark: The 1804 Journal of Charles Floyd) argue the merits of each case. New forensic interpretations update previous treatments by Vardis Fisher (Suicide or Murder? The Strange Death of Governor Meriwether Lewis) and David Leon Chandler (The Jefferson Conspiracies: A President's Role in the Assassination of Meriwether Lewis). A final summary by Jay H. Buckley (contributing author, America Looks West: Lewis and Clark on the Missouri) takes the form of a fascinating historical trial in which the reader is given the role of juror. Published in the final bicentennial year of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this well-written study attempts to throw light on what has been the dark shadow of the otherwise dazzling success of the Corps of Discovery. Highly recommended for public, high school, and academic libraries.-Nathan E. Bender, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806138510
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2007
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,044,342
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

John D. W. Guice, Professor of History, University of Southern Mississippi, and author of the Foreword, says of Everett Dick's The Dixie Frontier, that "persons interested in the American heritage should read it because it is a 'people' book-one about the daily lives of Southern men, women, and children who pushed into the lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains."

Jay H. Buckley is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University, coauthor of By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis, and author of William Clark: Indian Diplomat.

James J. Holmberg is curator of special collections for the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, and editor of Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark. Gary E. Moulton is editor of The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He resides in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : Meriwether Lewis's mysterious death on the Natchez Trace 3
Ch. 1 "I fear the waight of his mind has over come him" : the case for suicide 17
Ch. 2 "It seems to be more probable..." : why not homicide? 73
Ch. 3 A postmortem trial concerning Meriwether Lewis's controversial death 106
Documents 141
App Varying views of Meriwether Lewis's death 161
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